079: Notes from a third world country.
How to be an industry insider from the outside?
☕️ A reader asked about my thoughts on building a career as an illustrator from a small rural town in the UK. She mentions that she would like to move to a big city but prices are a deterrent. So I thought I’d share my thoughts about that.
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How to be an industry insider from outside a big city?
The context here is probably up to 2020 there has been an overwhelming benefit to living in London or New York if you’re working in publishing. However, lockdowns and office closures over the past couple of years have forced that concentration to work from home and redistributed the workforce. And even publishing professionals working in London have virtually all their meetings online. There will always be an advantage to being where the action is. What I plan to share is how to get a piece of the action from anywhere in the world.
This is just how I did it and what works for me. I will state it as fact because that is my experience, but my aim is that it will inspire your own thinking and decisions.
The Benefits of being in a big city
The benefits of being in a big city are the opportunity to meet and connect with people in organic ways. To attend important events where the desirable people attend. The person who knows the most people in the industry will have an advantage over the people who don’t.
When I was in a startup I tasted these benefits firsthand as I traveled to major world cities for events and trade shows. I see the goal of living or visiting a major city for the purpose of career advancement to be as follows:
“To know and be know by the relevant people in the industry so that you can be a part of contemporary conversations on tastes, market and how your work fits in.”
Being in the city provides opportunities to achieve that goal, but the other way is to show up online. Here’s my prescription assuming you want to get into children’s publishing. Keep the stated goal in mind when following these steps. Note it’s going to take you at least 500 hours to do all of this.
Figure out how to unlock 1-3 hours from your schedule every single day to do the following. If you cannot unlock at least one hour, the rest of this won’t matter.
Create a portfolio website with at least 9 pieces of work. These pieces need to show that you understand the industry you are trying to get into. If you don’t have 9 pieces and haven’t a clue what the industry is about. I recommend taking this course. It will introduce you to working professionals and other aspiring artists as well as an art director and art agent.
Start a Twitter account. Follow 100 illustrators and 100 industry professionals to follow on Twitter. If you’re on Twitter, put your Twitter handle and bio in the comments so people can follow you. For 100 days show up every day and say something nice about an artist’s work and respond to something an industry professional puts out. Do this with the same care as you would writing a resume. Remember to have a link to your website from Twitter.
Take 3 online classes related to children's Illustration on something like Domestika or skillshare. Pick an artist you really admire. Be a model student, do all the assignments, ask questions, and share your work . The goal is to make your presence felt by teachers and peers.
Become part of an online community, maybe this one. Or this one. This means showing up for online events, filling out your profile, and uploading work.
Now Instagram. Forget everything you think you know and make sure your last 50 post include; No whining, A consistent high-quality style, or at least the same color palette (which is a shortcut for style). 10 #drawthisinyourstyle challenges. 2 #transmundanetuesday challenges, 5 Animals, 5 Kids, Different expressions and poses, and a full 26 days of The Style Class Illustration - Don’t even think about likes and follows until you’ve completed the above, what you’re creating is a body of work for people to ‘discover’. If no one is interacting in the beginning, that’s good.
Schedule at least one 1-on-1 meetup on zoom every month with someone from the industry. Bring your specific challenges or questions that match their expertise. Or ask for a portfolio review.
Study 3 Artist currently working that you admire. Write a list of interview questions, then use google to find the answers, watch videos read interviews, and sign up for their classes and patreons or newsletters. Find things in their journey or practice that you can adopt.
When you have all of the above, write to 1-3 Editors, Art Directors or Agents every day and send them 3 of your best images and links to everything else. Ask for a job, and use their feedback to course correct.
Concentrate. Have a long-term plan and stick to it, if you don’t have a plan do the plan above. Find ways to stay motivated.
ps: Read: As a Man Thinketh, Steal like an artist, Four Thousand Weeks, Atomic Habits, and Things are what you make of them.
So really it doesn’t matter where you live, you can do all the above from a third-world country like the one I live in and still create as much of a presence as if you lived in New York or London. Fun fact, the two cities with the most readers of this newsletter are New York and London!
ps: Thank you to everyone who connected yesterday! It was really nice to hear from you and see your names in the comments. I’m told that this letter is opened a thousand times every day, but it’s really hard to feel connected without seeing your names and replies in the comments and in my inbox. I’m touched by your positive response about this thing I do seemingly alone before the sun comes out, its an honor to be on this creative journey with you, thank you for reading!
What I’m going to do now is pretend I’m you and write some questions for me. I’ll write 10 questions you might have based on the above, then I’m going to pick the top 3 and answer them on the other side of this paywall.
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